By The Bakersfield Californian
Every day I am thankful for everything in my life, especially my outdoor loves and pursuits. On Thanksgiving, I am particularly grateful because a million thanks would not come close to covering all that I have been given.
I am thankful for all fish and wild creatures, whether or not I seek to harvest them, for their continued existence, and for the simple, personal joys they afford whenever I share their space.
I am thankful for spectacular orange sunrises and ebbing red sunsets, and, despite unpleasant winds, stormy weather, chocolate-colored water and mud up to my knees, I give thanks for them, too.
I give thanks for gurgling, bubbling creeks, for tiny rills tumbling down mountain canyons and for emerald pools full of shiny, dappled trout. I am thankful for those that strike my offerings, bending my fishing rod, and for their shimmering beauty while leaping high into the air, my hook imbedded in their jaw. I am thankful they taste so wonderful still sizzling from a hot frying pan.
I am thankful that bass explode from the water, shaking their heads to dislodge my lure, and that sometimes they do get away. I am thankful for the artificial baits that attract them to my line and for the anticipation that fills me whenever I am on the water.
I am thankful for the way my bobber disappears beneath the surface when a catfish finally takes the bait. I am thankful for the vibrating grunts one makes when I hold it, begging me to release it. I am thankful that I often acquiesce to his vocal demands.
I am thankful for the shriek of a big game reel when an albacore strikes, drilling for the bottom 2,000 feet below. The tuna thinks he can make it, persevering like "The Little Engine That Could." My rod bent double, I am thankful he thinks he can, too.
I am thankful for the boisterous flush of a gaudy ringneck pheasant, long-tail streaming, ca-ca-cackling annoyance at being driven into flight by my dog. I am thankful for the view over the bead on my shotgun's barrel while tracking the lumbering bird. I am thankful for the gun's recoil against my shoulder and the puff of wafting, rust-colored feathers when everything comes together.
I am thankful for bevies of dog-pointed quail exploding beneath my feet, for the always unexpected thunder of many flushing wings that makes me miss them. And I am thankful anytime I see our state bird, in season or not, because they are so beautiful just to observe. Topknots bobbing, little feet bicycling, they are a joy to behold.
I am thankful for my dog, his brave heart so big he sometimes scares me with his love for me and the outdoors. I am thankful for his many points and grateful for his retrieves.
I am thankful for the gobbling and strumming of a springtime wild turkey. I harvest and serve them at my table, always with proper Thanks, the way the Pilgrims and Indians did so many years ago. They are big, noble and tough, wary to hunt and special, because they signify nature's grand bounty.
I also give thanks for the waterfowl I hunt, thankful that ducks quack, whistle and peep and that Canada geese honk-honk their way through the migration traffic. I am thankful they circle my decoys and blind in precise V-shaped flocks that only come close enough after much scrutiny. I am so thankful for the calls I use to dupe them into range and for their succulent flavor on my table.
I am thankful for big game, for deer and elk with wide antlers and wild pigs with huge tusks. I am thankful for the heady redolence of burnt gunpowder, for validated tags and the odor of Hoppe's No. 9.
I give thanks for the taste of fish and game, for pleasant aromas permeating the house when I cook them. I am thankful for my guests who share in the take, the catch, or the limit, and I am thankful for the spices, herbs and garlic that lift flavor to the surface and onto our taste buds. I am thankful for vintage wine, domestic beer and the occasional shot of whiskey that tempers the gourmet meal.
And I am particularly thankful for my wife, my sons, my siblings and the rest of my family that loves me back despite of my shortcomings.
But most of all, I thank God for the breath of life that allows me to participate in the unspoken wonder of His creation that I do not control but am allowed to enjoy.